There's been bad blood brewing between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors all season long, beginning with a shoving match between centers Andrew Bogut and DeAndre Jordan and a weird sideline incident between Blake Griffin and Warriors coach Mark Jackson on opening night, the curious choice not to share pregame chapel services and some Christmas squabbling that resulted in a Griffin ejection that the NBA later deemed unjust. It seemed a good bet, then, that sparks might fly when the two physical Western Conference contenders renewed their unpleasantries on Wednesday, and while nothing particularly explosive popped off, there were a couple of moments when something might have; in what will probably come as unsurprising news, both involved Griffin.
The first came late in the third quarter, when Griffin and Warriors forward Draymond Green got tangled up away from the ball during a final-minute Golden State possession, resulting in the two big men hitting the deck, Green getting called for an offensive foul, and the Clips getting the ball with the shot clock off and the chance to increase their two-point lead:
The Clippers would capitalize on their extra possession, with Chris Paul hitting a 3-pointer at the horn off a Griffin kickout to put L.A. up five heading into the fourth quarter. (Naturally.)
The second came with just under nine minutes remaining in the fourth, with the Clippers holding a six-point lead, on another away-from-the-ball tangle. This time, after hedging on a side pick-and-roll, Griffin ran back to the paint and picked up Warriors center Jermaine O'Neal as Green posted up Glen Davis. O'Neal pushed Griffin aside as Green entered the paint against "Big Baby," and it looked like Griffin's response somewhat oversold the contact that O'Neal made, which the 17-year veteran didn't appear to appreciate:
After an official timeout following a foul call on "Big Baby," Griffin headed back to the L.A. bench. O'Neal followed, chirping at Griffin enough that he wound up being hit with a technical foul, giving Darren Collison a freebie to halve the impact of the two shots Green was about to take.
Life proceeded largely without incident thereafter, as the Clips put their foot on the gas down the stretch, impelled by a mammoth follow slam by Griffin that provided a stirring reminder that while dunking certainly isn't all Blake does anymore, he is still very good at it:
L.A. closed the game on a 16-7 run over the final five minutes to earn a 111-98 win behind another stellar game from Griffin. The All-Star power forward scored 30 points on 13 for 28 shooting, 15 rebounds, three assists and three steals in 42 minutes, leading seven Clippers in double-figures. It was his 24th straight game with 20 or more points, tied for the seventh-longest such streak of the last six seasons, and it helped propel the Clips to their ninth straight win, an NBA-best run that has put Doc Rivers' squad in sole possession of third place in the Western Conference at 46-20, just one game back of the Oklahoma City Thunder and three games behind the No. 1-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
While it was all good for Griffin on the court on Wednesday, things apparently weren't quite so rosy between him and O'Neal after the game, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
Griffin was posing for pictures when he was approached by the angry backup center for the Warriors.
O’Neal got right into Griffin’s face.
“Why you going to walk up on me like that?” Griffin asked O’Neal. “Leave that [expletive] on the court. Leave that [expletive] on the court.”
O’Neal snarled, shook Griffin’s hand and walked away.
“Man, I’m a monster off the court,” O’Neal said, turning away.
Before Griffin walked into the postgame interview room, he responded.
“Man, get out of here with that,” Griffin said.
Now, evidently, the face-to-face wasn't as deathly serious as some are making it out to be:
But while it might not have reached Z-Bo-and-Perk levels of near-fisticuffs (or even Z-Bo-and-Blake levels of actual choking), a Clippers spokesman told Turner that the team "will report the incident to the NBA." For his part, Griffin didn't comment to reporters on his chat with O'Neal, telling Dan Woike of the Orange County Register that it “was between me and him.”
Whatever was or wasn't said and done in the hallway after the game, it's undeniable that there's some festering feudin' between these two teams, who — as luck would have it — would square off in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs if the postseason started today. While the Clips certainly have at least some distaste for the Dubs — Doc said after the win that he "was looking forward to this game, because you kind of felt like some of that junk would happen in the game, and we came out of it" — there sure seems to be more vitriol on Golden State's side of things. From Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:
"There's a lot of different theatrics that go on within a basketball game just in general, but this series on both sides tops the cake, I think," center Andrew Bogut said.
"We'll be as physical as they do it, and theatrics take place after that."
And the leading man in those "theatrics," fro the Warriors' point of view, appears to be the man no less an authority than DeMarcus Cousins once called "an actor." From Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Warriors forward David Lee said it's no coincidence that Griffin was at the center of much of the extracurricular physicality.
"It's no coincidence is an understatement," Lee said. "I've got no other comment on that."
Sometimes, of course, a "no comment" is a pretty strong comment, and it's one shared by a number of observers of Griffin's penchant for finding himself in the middle of scrums. Whether opponents are mounting extra-physical responses to Griffin because he's cheap-shotting them first or because they just don't know what else to do with him, it sure doesn't seem to be working these days, as Blake's playing the best ball of his NBA career and the Clippers — owners of the NBA's best offense, second-best record and 10th-best defense since Jan. 1, according to NBA.com's stat tool — are looking increasingly like an honest-to-goodness contender in the Western Conference.
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